JOINT BASE-LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. — A soldier was convicted Wednesday of unpremeditated murder after prosecutors said he stabbed a comrade through the heart two years ago.

Pvt. Jeremiah Hill, 24, testified duriing the trial that he acted in self-defense when he stabbed 20-year-old Spc. Tevin Geike, of Summerville, South Carolina, The News Tribune newspaper of Tacoma reported.

The finding that the killing was not premeditated will spare Hill what could have been a mandatory life sentence, though the jury could still recommend life in prison.

The panel was expected to weigh Hill's sentence beginning later in the day.

Hill told Army jurors that Geike slashed his right hand during a confrontation involving two groups of soldiers on Oct. 5, 2013. Bleeding from the wound, Hill said, he then stabbed Geike because the fellow soldier had a knife and was "still a threat."

Both soldiers were based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma.

In closing arguments, Army prosecutors ridiculed Hill's story.

"Everything (Hill) told you with few exceptions was a lie," said Army prosecutor Capt. Patrick Sandys.

Hill stalked Geike from behind, plunged a knife in the younger man's upper left chest, and then injured his own hand when his thumb slipped on the blade, Sandys said.

The slaying occurred when Hill and a group of soldiers pulled up in a car as Geike and two friends were walking along a highway in Lakewood, authorities say.

The two groups reportedly prepared to fight but stopped when they realized they were all soldiers. At that point, Hill is accused of grabbing Geike and stabbing him in the chest.

Two soldiers with Hill that night testified that Hill did not appear to be concerned when he learned he might have killed someone, the newspaper reported. Defense attorneys pointed to conflicting statements the soldiers gave to police and attorneys in the past.

One of them, Pvt. Cedarium Johnson, was convicted last week of trying to obstruct the Army investigation and sentenced to up to nine months in confinement. He testified against Hill as part of a plea deal that capped his sentence.

Pvt. Ajoni Runnion-Bareford said he took the knife Hill used and threw it into the woods. He pleaded guilty in August in Pierce County Superior Court to a charge of rendering criminal assistance.

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